Television

‘GLOW’ Season 3 Made The Case for a Great Season 4 (Column)

SPOILER ALERT: This column contains spoilers for the entirety of the third season of Netflix’s “GLOW.” 

Just as “Orange is the New Black” once used its preppy blonde protagonist to lure unsuspecting viewers into a show about inequality, “GLOW” uses wrestling to unpack what it means to be empowered. The logline of the show boils down to “a ragtag group of ‘80s women become wrestlers,” conjuring neon images of glitter and hairspray, wisecracks and padded shoulders reaching to the sky. And while all of that has been present in “GLOW” since its 2017 debut, the show also quickly revealed itself to be about so much more than its Spandexed surface. It’s about ambition, passion, and drive. It’s about the complexities of navigating the workplace, even if the office is a bright pink wrestling ring. It’s about learning who you are, and learning to love it. 

The third season of “GLOW,” which dropped August 9 on Netflix, is the clearest example of how much Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch’s show has evolved in such a relatively short amount of time. Though the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling have now relocated to a glitzy Las Vegas hotel, their stories include far less of the actual wrestling than before. Instead, three seasons in, the show takes advantage of the fact that it’s now freer to move past everyone’s basics and explore their issues in more depth. It also sets up several storylines that could pay off big should “GLOW” get a deserved fourth season order.

There’s Debbie (standout Betty Gilpin), who explores producing more seriously (while navigating the constant sexism that comes with it) and realizes that she’s great at it. There’s Sam (Marc Maron), who started the series as nothing more than a cranky jerk and spends the back half of season 3 helping his daughter make her movie, which he admits could be better than anything he ever made without any of his typical ego. Ruth (Alison Brie) finds herself more aimless in Vegas than ever, a state that doesn’t suit her hyperactive ambition, especially as her roommate Sheila (Gayle Rankin) starts digging into acting with astonishing results. Jenny (Ellen Wong) confronts the reality of acting out an ugly stereotype as “Fortune Cookie” night after night. Stunt coordinator Cherry (Sydelle Noel) tries to figure out what starting a family could mean for her career without spiraling. Arthie (Sunita Mani) throws herself into a relationship with Yolanda (Shakira Barrera), even though thinking any harder about her sexuality terrifies her. In a similar boat is producer Bash (Chris Lowell), who got married to Rhonda (Kate Nash) in season 2 rather than face his own homosexuality, and who has to reckon with that fact in season 3 as she looks on in confusion. 

I could go on, and on, and on, because the fact is that these plotlines barely make up half of what the show tackles in season 3. The “GLOW” cast is sprawling enough and its mid-80s setting rich enough that the show encompasses story possibilities like no other on TV. (I didn’t even mention that this season features none other than Geena Davis as a retired showgirl turned businesswoman, that’s how much ground season 3 has to cover.) So while not all the threads are completely successful (Bash’s struggles continue to be one of the show’s weakest spots), by the end of season 3, they’re each left in such intriguing places that it would be a real shame to not see where they lead. In particular, there’s the incredible promise of Debbie closing a huge deal in the season finale for her and Bash to lead a television network. Not only does that mean that the wrestling show within “GLOW” would be completely revamped, but it could be, as Debbie puts it, “an Eden, where we run the show…no more being at the mercy of these fucking idiots, we’ll call the shots.” This triumphant moment ends in conflict (Ruth isn’t nearly as into the idea of giving up acting to call the shots offscreen as Debbie), but the sentiment is one that is as “GLOW” as they come: a woman who was told all her life what she could and should be, rejecting it to realize her own ambitious dream.

The season also dangles this extraordinary possibility right before its final closing credits, which is downright gutsy given reports that “GLOW,” critically acclaimed though it is, has been teetering on the edge of cancellation since its debut. It also signals a willingness on the show’s part to keep pushing itself alongside its heroines and dream bigger with every chance it gets. “GLOW” would still be a very good show if it ended with season 3, but given its upward trajectory, it only stands to be great in season 4. 

Seasons 1-3 of “GLOW” are currently available to stream on Netflix. 

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